Ruth Ann Mekitarian has been donating to The Menninger Clinic Foundation since 2004. Her daughter, Anna, is the reason she gives. At 13, Anna struggled with schizoaffective disorder and trauma, but found solace and strength during a three-month inpatient stay at Menninger — then located in Topeka. Now 34, and living independently, Anna’s resilience is a testament to Menninger’s impact. Read on to discover the inspiring story of this mother and daughter duo.
Anna's journey has been a series of tough battles. Early on, she faced trauma linked to a debilitating childhood condition that hindered her ability to walk and necessitated multiple surgeries. Then came the devastating loss of her father to a heart attack, witnessed right at home. Around age 10, auditory hallucinations started, signaling the beginning of her mental health challenges. Middle school didn't make life any easier. Bullied by her peers, a breakdown and a frightening stay in a nearby psychiatric facility followed.
While Anna was hospitalized for 10 excruciating days in the local facility, Ruth Ann had minimal contact with her daughter. And when she did see her, it was clear that Anna was not doing well in the hospital’s environment. Frustrated and deeply concerned, Ruth Ann started looking for alternatives and found Menninger — a decision that would become a game-changer.
Menninger's Impact: A Ray of Hope
At Menninger, a comprehensive approach to Anna’s care unfolded. The staff at Menninger took Anna off all medications and conducted a thorough assessment to guide the best diagnosis and treatment plan. Ruth Ann says the experience — a supportive staff, treatments grounded in science, and, importantly, feeling like an active participant in decisions about Anna's care — was a far cry from their previous struggles. Menninger's professionalism and collaboration became a ray of hope, marking a crucial turning point in Anna's journey to better mental health.
“I relaxed for the first time in six weeks. I actually could sleep, and I wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night, wondering if there was something going on with my daughter,” Ruth Ann says.
Anna also found Menninger to be a positive experience, highlighting the care and compassion provided by psychologist Flynn O’Malley, PhD, and psychiatrist Norma Clark, MD, as well as the nurse and social worker. Engaging activities, ranging from schoolwork and art to gym and even quiet time, fostered a warm and supportive environment. Anna thrived under Menninger's care, with lasting memories of The Clinic’s nurturing atmosphere.
While Anna learned strategies to cope with her mental illness, Ruth Ann gained crucial insights into the developing brain. Menninger mental health professionals O’Malley and Clark explained that the brain matures fully by 25, offering reassurance that what Ruth Ann witnessed in Anna wasn't her final state. She shares, "Hearing that was helpful. The disease was going to change. As a parent, it helped me hold on. I didn’t know how it would morph, but knowing we were on a course, even through rough years, was valuable."
Life after Menninger: Navigating Challenges and Triumphs
Anna emerged from Menninger with a solid foundation and insight to deal with her mental illness, providing strength for the challenges ahead, says Ruth Ann. In the years that followed, Anna navigated ups and downs. After completing eighth grade at Menninger’s school in Topeka, she attended a therapeutic high school in New Jersey, but faced hospitalizations every 18 months.
After graduation, a new set of challenges unfolded. Anna started hearing voices, compelling her to drive late at night and preventing her from sleeping for nearly two years. Recognizing the danger Anna faced, Ruth Ann sought help from Clark and Menninger once again. Acting on Clark’s recommendation, they switched to a different second-generation antipsychotic, marking a transformative change in Anna’s condition. Since 2010, she has not been hospitalized.
Now 34, Anna actively embraces an independent lifestyle through volunteering and managing her own finances and medical conditions. Ruth Ann, living a mile and a half away, shares a close connection with her “blessing,” recognizing Anna’s strength and remarkable resiliency.
"At Menninger, we learned the importance of honesty in addressing mental illness," reflects Ruth Ann. By sharing their journey, she hopes to inspire support for mental health, emphasizing the critical need to raise awareness and provide financial backing. "Mental health needs our help."